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Return to Kathmandu…

18th November 2011

side note, I believe I have been writing 2012 on some of my posts, oops, ignore that and imagine 2011 when you read it… Thanks! (of course I guess I could always go back and change them, I could…)

Bus Ride number 3

Returning to Kathmandu would involve another 6+hr bus trip, luckily this time I had booked in advance and had ensured I would have one of the very front seats. So after checking out and saying a sad farewell to my new sister, Laxmi, I grabbed a taxi and headed to the bus station. As luck would have it, the driver didn’t have change, but one enterprising young lad selling baked goods quickly took advantage of the situation:
“Lady, lady, I can make change if you buy something…”
Well I did need something for breakfast. I told him he was a bright lad and would go far and he seemed to like this. Now that I think about it maybe the two were in cahoots… But either way it meant I didn’t overpay the driver and got something to eat at the same time.
I felt a little bad for another chap who had tried to sell me something but I had said no, he just sort of looked on in shock. Am guessing he learnt a valuable lesson.

The front seat I had so hoped for ended up being almost jammed into the glass behind the driver giving no room to put my legs up and the seat was too high to put my feet down, for those who don’t know I am barely 5ft/1.5m tall, you can pretty much use me as measurement. My seat mate was a local travel agent and was kind enough to ask the driver for one of the little stools people use in the aisle when the bus is overcrowded, and I had an instant foot rest. It only got better when the people booked into the row behind us never showed up and the agent moved to that row, providing ample space for me to stretch out.

The bus ride still took over 7 1/2 hrs and I was utterly exhausted at the end of it.

Without much warning and in an area completely unfamiliar the bus stopped mid traffic flow and the driver yelled “Thamel! Last Stop”. All of us piled out of the vehicle rather confused and disoriented, we grabbed our bags as they were unloaded, with the bus still moving with the traffic, and then hurriedly got out of the road.

Luckily a couple of folks were heading my way so I was completely left to fend for myself and in no time I recognised a street corner and knew where to turn. My friend, Buddha, had promised to meet me, but when I called he said he had been invited to participate in a bartending competition and if I could make it back to Hotel Silver Home the owner, Yogi, would come and pick me up and take me to where he was.

Competitions

I had hoped to have time to shower and grab something to eat, but it sounded like we had to go asap. So after they showed me to my 4th floor room (I have always had a severe dislike of stairs, especially after a long bus drive), I washed my face and headed back down. Unfortunately Yogi got side tracked with some duties at the hotel, and Buddha called twice to find out where we were before we finally left.

I was tired, famished and dressed in wonderfully touristy Nepali clothing when we pulled into this rather fancy looking bar hosting the event. A local bartending school was using it as a way to prepare bartenders from around Kathmandu for international competition, with a rather nice sum of over $100 for 1st place. Buddha works as a bartender on the MSC cruise lines, and has for the last 5yrs, he is a natural when it came to that.

He was excited to see me and gave me a big hug then lent on me as we watched some of the other bartenders take their turns. Unfortunately I was so light headed and tired I had to find somewhere to sit. It took almost 2 hrs before it was his turn and he was by far the best of the lot, I am not biased in any way…ok maybe a little.

He had wanted to make 3 cocktails in the 5minutes they had, the judges permitted 2, but with a severe shortage of glasses and then have a glass shatter mid pour and cutting his finger he ended with one… and still a minute to spare. It was called purple rain and I thought it was spectacular, as the 2 colors of alcohol turn a vivid purple when mixed. The judges were well impressed and the only negative comment was that perhaps he seemed too confident. We felt he was a shoo in for 1st.

Buddha doing what he does best

We waited for the results but the flaring competition which was very cool, ended up taking too long, so we headed out to Buddha’s friends place for dinner.

Bronco Billy’s

Bronco Billy’s is a western theme, cowboy type place ,with pics of John Wayne and other stars on the walls. There was a circle of chairs and a big drum for a fire pit. Buddha had arranged it all for me and a few friends, super sweet thought, if I hadn’t been so exhausted. But the food was amazing with chicken and beef ribs (or rather buffalo) all done on open flame and slathered in yummy sauce. The hot rum punch that was ordered for me was also fantastic, threatening to make me pass out then and there. After a great evening it was time to head home, almost falling asleep behind Buddha as we rode through an eerily quiet Kathmandu at 2am on his motorbike. Dropping me off at my hotel we planned to meet the next day for more sightseeing.

Bed oh glorious bed!!!!!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Arrival Kathmandu…

Visas!!!

I had finally arrived in a country I had dreamed of visiting for I don’t know how many years. I was exhausted after almost 20hrs of travel and since I knew the line for visas would be long I wanted off the plane ASAP. Lonely planet had warned it could take 2-5 hrs to get your visa if you had not organised it prior to arrival.

We had been circling for 20min due to the number of planes landing and that should have given me a clue as to what awaited me in the immigration hall. I line of tourists three wide and running the length of the hall in a snake like pattern. Everyone who entered all did the same thing, just in different languages:
Stop
Stare
“Oh SHIT!”
“Is this the visa line??”

We were all incredulous at the fact that there was only one booth open for all these people. Add to that the mad scramble to the little photo booth to get 2 pics and to exchange money at the 1 money exchange, they only accepted US$, Euros or Pounds. So my Malaysian Ringit weren’t cutting it. There was one ATM but thank heavens I had enough ringit, as it took me 6 different ATM’s in town to find one that liked my card enough to give me money.

So asking my new best friends in line to hold my place I went over to the exchange and managed to to scrape together enough ringit (just as well I didn’t buy food at the KL airport) to change some into US$ for the visa and some into a few 1000 nepali rupees to get me by for the first day.

The one couple standing with us finally decided to use their Diplomat Passports, not sure why it took them 45min to decide that, I asked if I could be their daughter for an hour… but unfortunately that ruse would not work. No harm in asking right.

After a further hour, there was a sudden surge in the line and we all dashed forward to what appeared to be a new booth opening. You had a split to decide if you wanted to take the chance of losing your place in the line that had moved 2m (just over 5ft) in and hour and half or stick with it. By this point I had lost most of my sense so what the hell and I joined the dash.

It turned out to be the right move. It still took another hour before I finally reached the first of 3 men that processed your passport. But it was faster than others who continued to wait 2-3hrs.

Visa Process… Nepal Style

After making close friends with all the surrounding tourists I finally made it to the window and man number one. He processed the payment, it cost me $40 (US) for a 30day visa. He handed you 2 pieces of yellow paper and motioned you to move, or rather stand as the line wasn’t moving, to the next guy who processed your little yellow pieces of paper. But they all had a great sense of humor and so it made the wait worth it, almost.

Finally, drum roll please, I get to the 3rd guy. He is the more professional one and doesn’t joke around with the rest of us, his job is to double check the visa and then stamp it!

So after over two and a half hours Ta Da! Welcome to Nepal!

Hotel Silver Home

From immigration I was able to stumble my way through to pick up my bags, then go through what I think was a form of customs and then after getting lost trying to find the exit, was accosted by hundreds of taxi drivers and tour guides. I already had a booking at a hotel and it included airport pickup, all I hoped is that they were still there after my long wait immigration.

It was rather amusing because even with all the insistent shouting of “taxi, taxi, lady you need taxi???”, the minute I said I have a pick up and hotel they would smile and welcome me, rather than convince me they were better. In fact I almost felt like I was crowd surfing, just on my own two feet, as most of them would ask what hotel and then point out the way where the driver should be. As I exited the airport the sheer volume of the waiting taxi drivers all with signs and posters made me stop in my tracks. I was too tired for this. The scene proceeded something like this:
-walk outside and have lost look on face
-“what hotel you want what hotel?”
-“Hotel Silver Home”
-“over there he is over there”
-find my name (correctly spelled, a first time for everything), throw up my hands and go that’s me! With a big grin.

I am fairly certain I got a round of applause, they seemed genuinely happy that I had united with my taxi driver. Or maybe it was the exhaustion… I was just excited my name was spelled right, that doesn’t even happen in English speaking countries.

I was lucky enough to have Hotel Silver Home recommended to me by great friend and fellow travel enthusiast. He also answers to the titles of my writing guru and my personal shrink during travel related crisis! Since the hotel had airport pickup, a decent website and a private room with bathroom for $8 a night, it sounded down right perfect. I could have got a dorm for around $2, but sometimes its good to “splurge”!

We squeezed two other travelers and all of our bags into a very small car and hurtled on down towards the hotel, located in the Thamel (aka tourist) district. When I say hurtled I am not kidding, at least he would have except for the fact that traffic barely moved and road rules were merely a suggestion, or maybe only an afterthought. Taking the matters into his own hands we simply slipped off the road and drove along the rutted ground, barely missing dogs, people, lamp posts, trenches and the such. I tried really hard to figure out the route but we went on such a convoluted course, where if I had been paying I would have accused the driver of doubling back, that by the time we arrived I was completely lost.

Hotel Silver Home appeared like a godsend out of the shadows of an alley right off the main drag, and after introductions and paperwork I found myself in my room. It was huge with a double bed, a small balcony and a bathroom. I was so tired that I couldn’t even managed the thought of dinner. So I just had a quick shower and crawled into bed. Despite the blaring rendition of 60’s music and the drip drip from my bathroom, I was soon blissfully unaware. Ahhh is there any sleep better than that after one hell of a long day of travel.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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